Oak Springs Trilobite Area | Fossil Hunting Guide
Oak Springs Trilobite Area Video Guide
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The Oak Springs Trilobite Site near Caliente, Nevada, is an incredible site filled with the fossilized remains of six types of trilobite fossils - free for the taking! Approximately 2 hours from Las Vegas, it's the perfect location for a half-day road trip, or a nice stop along the Great Basin Highway. I've added this to my itinerary on trips to State Parks, such as Cathedral Gorge or Kershaw-Ryan. Sometimes I'll prospect for fossils, and sometimes it's just a quick bathroom stop for Poe along the way.
"...make sure you pack the right gear for the trip."
If finding fossils is your goal when heading out, make sure you pack the right gear for the trip. First of all, grab a bucket - a good 5 gallon one that you don't really care about (it will get dirty and scuffed). This is my preferred way to my carry tools and to store fossils for the return trip. In addition, you'll want to have the right hammer - something with a chisel on one end works great. My first time out, I used a roofer's hammer and it was a bit unwieldy. A mason or rock hammer is ideal for this job. In addition, I pack the following:
Brushes (Tooth and Paint)
"Heading north from Las Vegas, the drive can be a bit boring..."
Heading north from Las Vegas the drive can be a bit boring, but I've found a few things that can break up this drive and make it a bit more memorable. First, there are Nevada historical markers where you can learn the history of the state. I always stop at the site of the old state line, about an hour north of the city. There's a small picnic table and trash can - this is a great spot to walk your dog and stretch your legs. Just watch for broken glass littered throughout the area, and dispose of your pet's waste properly.
There's also The Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge to see along the way. It's a gorgeous area that is managed as part of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Check out some of the wilderness viewing areas - you'll see signs as you fly along the highway at 75 mph. Make sure you visit their site for current conditions before planning your trip. As of this posting, the Visitor Center, Visitor Center Trails and Visitor Center access road are closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Watch for slower moving semi-trucks and RVs - there are only 2 lanes and limited passing zones the entire trip.
If gas stations and convenience stores are important to you, I highly recommend the Alamo Sinclair in Alamo, NV. The prices are usually good and the facilities are clean. I avoid filling up at the station in Ash Springs. The gas prices here are typically much higher in comparison. These are your only 2 choices between Las Vegas and the trilobite site, so plan accordingly. Directly south of the Alamo Sinclair is the second historical marker of the trip, which discusses the history of Pahranagat Valley and the story of "The Rolling Stones." Nope, not Mick and the Boys...
"Here, the landscape begins to change dramatically as you leave the Mojave Desert."
Once you leave Pahranagat Valley and swing right at Crystal Springs, you'll begin your journey on the Great Basin Highway. Here, the landscape begins to change dramatically as you leave the Mojave Desert. You'll split the Big Rocks Wilderness to the north and the South Pahroc Range as you begin to climb your way towards Delamar Valley. Once you begin to see Joshua Trees, you'll eventually be treated to your third historical marker which discusses the ghost town of Delamar, and how it earned the nickname "The Widow Maker".
From the Delamar marker, there's only a short distance until you reach the Oak Springs Trilobite Area on your left (north side of the highway). Look for the sign and again, watch for oncoming semi-trucks at are usually flying around this corner. The gravel road and lot here are well-maintained and are easily accessed with a sedan or standard 2WD vehicle. Watch out for side-by-side and OHV (Off Highway Vehicles) flying around since there is a large system of trails nearby.
Now that you've made it to the parking lot, take a moment to stretch those weary legs and read the information kiosk provided by the Bureau of Land Management. Grab your fossil hunting gear, backpack, sun protection and water, and begin your journey back in time... approximately 540 million years!
To find your trilobite fossils, I highly recommend turning to the video at this point. You'll find examples from the actual site below. Please remember to #leavenotrace when you're enjoying any of our outdoor spaces, and let me know in the comments if you have any questions or found this guide helpful.
Examples of trilobite fossils found at Oak Springs, Nevada